Commentary: The Traditional Community
My name is Jeff Wilfahrt. You may have run across my name recently in relation to your community regarding the marriage amendment bill, which will now appear on the 2012 ballot in Minnesota.
While not a member of your community, I’d like to throw out some thoughts for your consideration. In particular I’d like to address the lexicon of the day.
I suggest you consider dropping the terms “gay” and “lesbian” from your self-reference. It seems that far too many heterosexuals immediately jump to sexual imagery when they hear these terms. This has become evident to me in recent weeks while attending rallies at the State Capitol. Imagery also seems to dominate blog statements from the proponents of the bill.
From here on out, when asked about sexual orientation, I think you should answer with the term “traditional.” After all, homosexuality isn’t a new thing—it is a tradition. Let’s face it: The big argument on marriage is about tradition, so you as a community should stake your claim to that verbiage as well.
In the interest of fairness, I think the term “straight” should be changed in your community as well to the term “missionary,” because this will conjure image of a sexual position in the hetero community. Think of it as fair turnabout, and it will make more sense.
Language is a big thing in our household. We actually have the Oxford English Dictionary on our bookshelf, and it does get used. Our son, Andrew, whom we recently lost in Afghanistan, and who was indeed a member of your community, also loved language. His favorite term was “sentience.” I like that word, too. I’m glad he brought it into my lexicon.
In fact, I like the term so well that on Memorial Day, while his mother, brother, sister, and her friend stood graveside, I read aloud “Expostulation and Reply” by Wordsworth in memoriam to Andrew. I admit my voice cracked, and I could barely utter the last line, but I figure wherever he is now, whatever he is now, he knew the poem and what was intended. It was, after all, sentient in nature.
If you like poems, you should check it out. It is short, and only takes a minute or two to read. It takes a little longer to soak in, and I suggest you find a stone to sit upon while reading it. For yourself, just take a moment to be.
Since I’m postulating a language change, I’d like to throw another term in the trash. That term is “civil union.” I don’t like that phrase. I much prefer the use of “civil marriage.” This seems to bring in so many other flavors. For example, we have “civil discourse,” “civil behavior,” and that old tried-and-true term “civility.”
There is another subtext to the use of civil as well, which is that it is a legal thing. So, by using “civil marriage,” the religiosity of marriage is deferred, which renders it more of an implied legal thing. Let the churches have the term “marriage,” but let the public discourse on the amendment shift to “civil marriage” as the term of choice, at least as projected by your community.
After all, citizenship is our common ground, and that resides in the legal realm. We are all citizens, and therefore should share all legalities, including “civil marriage.”
I’ll let it rest there. I’ve shared my thoughts on the matter. I hope the traditional community (formerly known as LGBT) can begin to use this type of language about itself. Selfishly speaking, then I can claim membership, too.
Andrew’s photo was in the Traditional Pride Parade on June 26. The flag signed by the 3rd Platoon, which so dearly loved him, was there, too.
Jeff Wilfahrt is the father of Corporal Andrew Wilfahrt, 552nd MP Company, who was killed in action in Kandahar, Afghanistan, on February 27, 2011.